Message from Rev. Moore – October 2017

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9ESV)

For the last few Newsletters, I briefly shared with you the Five-Solas. If you recall, the Five-Solas are five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged from the Protestant Reformation intended to summarize the Reformers’ basic theological principles in contrast to certain teachings of the Medieval Church of Rome during that time. Sola is Latin meaning “alone” or “only.” The phrases are:

  • Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.
  • Sola Fide, through Faith alone.
  • Sola Gratia, by Grace alone.
  • Solus Christus, through Christ alone.
  • Soli Deo Gloria, to the Glory of God alone.

In preparation for Reformation Sunday this October 29th (in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation), I shared with you the first of the solas: Scripture alone. These two months (October and November), we’ll take a look at the second and third of the solas: Faith alone and Grace alone! What does Faith and Grace alone mean? Faith is the manner by which a sinner receives God’s gift of salvation. Grace is the manner by which a sinner is given salvation by God. Grace is God’s giving. Faith is our receiving. And both grace and faith are gifts from God. Let me explain further.

When the Reformers spoke of faith alone they meant faith in contradistinction to works. Faith and works go together in some ways, but in regard to salvation faith is the  opposite of works,  and works is the opposite of faith. Faith either stands alone apart from works, or works stand alone apart from faith. Like oil and water, you cannot mix the two. Faith means believers are justified (made right with God) by Jesus’ merit. The object of saving faith is Jesus. Works means we are justified (in part) by our own merit, that we  (by our own good works) merit salvation. Conversely, the object of works is self, self-salvation. The Medieval Church taught basically the latter, that “God helps those who first help themselves.” That is, if you want to get to heaven you must do your part (works) in collaboration with God doing his part (grace). In short, it’s both divine grace and human merit that saves.

Five-hundred years ago, the Reformers broke from this unbiblical approach of justification by grace and works. They boldly taught what the Bible has always taught: grace alone and faith alone.

What this means is that we are saved solely through faith in Jesus Christ because of God’s grace and Christ’s merit alone. We are not saved by our merits or declared righteous by our good works. God grants salvation not because of the good things we do. Works are important in the Christian life. But, our good works amount to nothing when it comes to our justification, our being made right with God. The only thing that our works amount to (good works and/or bad works) is our damnation. Jesus merits us righteousness; Jesus earns our salvation by virtue of His active and passive obedience.

Our obedience to the demands of the law merits us nothing, but condemnation. Jesus’ obedience to the law merits us everything. The only thing we must do is trust in Jesus’ work on our behalf, and distrust our own work. You can’t have it both ways. This is an either/or that excludes the possibility of a  both/and. Faith alone is grasping God’s gift of Jesus with an empty hand. Works is a hand that fatally and fecklessly fumbles salvation!

This is a truth that must be taught and preached across all the churches today as it was five-hundred years ago. As Paul said to the church of Ephesus (and to us) we have only two options: we can boast in ourselves, or boast in God. Works have us boasting in ourselves. Faith alone has us boasting is God alone! The former leads to eternal death. The latter to eternal life! Stay Reformed friends!

Soli Deo Gloria

Pastor Carl